Cancer and Blood Disorders: Research

Beyond providing exceptional clinical care, we are also striving to eradicate childhood cancer and blood disease. Our team is focused on generating new knowledge by conducting research on these disorders and sharing that knowledge with others as we educate the next generation of physicians and scientists. 
To accomplish this, we’ve developed research and training programs that we continually assess, augment and expand. Our research programs extend from the most basic laboratory research to the clinic. Our training programs embrace medical and biomedical science graduate students, primarily from the UT Southwestern as well as pediatric residents and pediatric hematology/oncology fellows.  

Laboratory Research

Physicians and scientists with primary or secondary appointments in the Division of Hematology/Oncology are conducting molecular and cellular biology experiments in cancer and blood disease. In this rapidly evolving field, one of our overarching goals is to leverage the potential in the “genomics revolution.” Genomics allows us to rapidly and efficiently sequence genetic material derived from cancer specimens so that we can develop more robust prognostic tools and “personalized” therapies tailored to the needs of an individual patient. Laboratory research efforts are both basic and translational studies that help to bridge the lab and clinical venues. Research is carried out in laboratories at Children’s Medical Center, UT Southwestern and the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute. 

Active areas of basic research include:  

  • Using fruit fly and zebrafsh models to understand the genetic defects causing rhabdomyosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma and malignant germ cell tumor.
  • Using complementary pre-clinical models to dissect the key “vulnerabilities” in rhabdomyosarcoma.  
  • Understanding the molecular machinery by which normal cells can undergo “senescence” as a tumor suppressor mechanism in the presence of a cancer-causing oncogene.  
  • Identifying novel proteins that can be “targeted” as novel therapies in childhood cancer.  
  • Understanding how certain cancer-causing mutations influence the metabolism in childhood brain tumors and certain types of sarcoma.  
  • Uncovering how hematopoietic and embryonic stem cells are controlled and how these control mechanisms can go awry in cancer and blood disease.  
  • Elucidating the molecular machinery that guides erythrocyte development.  
    Using novel model systems to elucidate the host and bacterial factors that cause invasive bacterial and fungal infections.

Clinical Funding

Physicians at the Gill Center are engaged in a wide range of clinical research efforts spanning the cancer and blood disease programs. Clinical research efforts are supported by robust infrastructure provided by the Clinical Research Office (CRO) within the Gill Center and the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern, the only NCI- designated cancer center in North Texas. At any point, 75 to 100 oncology trials and 20 to 30 hematology trials are open for enrollment for Gill Center patients. 

Active areas of clinical research include:  

  • Prospective clinical trials for children with cancer, conducted under the umbrella of the NCI-sponsored Children’s Oncology Group
  • Prospective, early-phase clinical trials for children with hematological malignancies, conducted as part of the Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma (TACL) consortium  
  • Prospective therapeutic trials for children with sickle cell disease, iron defciency anemia and hemophilia  
  • Investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored therapeutic studies of children with cancer and blood disease  
  • Retrospective research studies investigating molecular and clinical factors infuencing late effects in childhood cancer survivors 

Research Funding

Clinical and laboratory research efforts are funded by a wide variety of national, regional and local organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Eye Institute; Cancer Research and Protection Institute of Texas; American Cancer Society; St. Baldrick’s Foundation; Children’s Cancer Fund; Children’s Medical Center Foundation; Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer; Young Texans Against Cancer; 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation; and Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation.